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Giff Goes In

Kathie Lee fills in for a newlywed, the McCarter serves as a launching pad, and Cy gives 'em something to sigh about.

By New York City

Kathie Lee Gifford with Charles Busch
Kathie Lee Gifford with Charles Busch
Granted, she's had a lot on her plate of late, but one thing Liza Minnelli Allen Haley Gero Gest turned down recently was a mini-film for Showtime that Charles Busch had written expressly for her, called The Personal Assistant. The title character is a sitcom star's handmaiden with a diva's disposition, and the memory work would have involved only 14 lines of dialogue, but Liza let it pass. Something about a wedding...

Well, Liza's loss is Kathie Lee Gifford's gain. La Gifford stepped into those formidable stiletto-heels and the result begins airing tomorrow (March 23), between movies, on Showtime. Co-starring: Julie Halston as her hairdresser, Jim Caruso (yes, our Jim Caruso) as her makeup artist, and Mario Cantone as personal assistant to the personal assistant. Author Busch made his film-directing debut with the piece and reportedly conducted himself with considerable elan; the six-minute flick was lensed in a gothic Bronxville mansion in one big, 13-hour push.

Gifford got a great report card from her co-stars: "jazzy," "fun," "sweet," "supportive," "everything you kinda want her to be and you may think she won't be because you read the papers." The group even went to Nyack and back for this woman--to see her try out the new Rupert Holmes mystery, Thumb, at the Helen Hayes Theater there. She plays a spoiled television star. We hear it's a stretch.

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THE McCARTER GETS CRACKING

Doing something McRight:
McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ
Doing something McRight:
McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ
Princeton's McCarter Theatre has pitched shows our way before, the latest being Emily Mann's starry revival of Edward Albee's All Over, which the Roundabout has rounded up for its Gramercy Theater this summer with Rosemary Harris and Michael Learned still on board.

Now, the McCarter is really starting to look like a N.Y.C. launching pad. On Friday, the theater gets first crack at a play it commissioned: Eric Bogosian's latest, Humpty Dumpty, directed by Mrs. Bogosian, Jo Bonney. Bruce Norris, Kathryn Meisle, Patrick Fabian, Reiko Aylesworth, and Michael Laurence comprise the cast. Norris plays a screenwriter but won't say more because it'll spoil the plot. We can say that Norris happens to be a playwright on the side and just had an opus done at the Philadelphia Theater Center, called The Infidel. "It's nice," he remarks, "to have jobs in the middle of pilot season so your agent can't try to get you to audition for television shows."

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SIGHING FOR CY

For those of us who grew up on his early jazz records, the prospect of catching the Cy Coleman Trio live was just a dream deferred. Coleman withdrew from performing long ago, and the American musical theater is richer for it; the chances for him to play around (and off) other musicians in clubs have been rare. But something wonderful this way came a couple of weeks ago when Cy-plus-two (bassist Gary Haase and drummer Buddy Williams) dropped by Joe's Pub for four yummy performances. Coleman groupies, including the famous ones who really twinkle 'n' shine, lined up instantly and got more than they bargained for.

The legendary Cy Coleman
The legendary Cy Coleman
In the "and-then-I-wrote..." segment, Coleman favored producer Roger Berlind with a medley from The Life and lyricist Adolph Green with "Never Met a Man I Didn't Like" from their Will Rogers Follies. He also dipped into his great-songs-from-nothing bag ("Witchcraft" and a personal favorite, "I'm Gonna Laugh You Right Out of My Life") and added a little punctuation from other composers (Gershwin's "A Foggy Day," Johnny Green's "Green Dolphin Street"). And just to remind us that he's still an active Broadway tunesmith, Coleman threw in "It Started With a Dream," which he and David Zippel wrote for their upcoming adaptation of Wendy Wasserstein's children's book Pamela's First Musical and which just happens to be the title tune of his new Sony CD.

Additionally, Skitch Henderson and The New York Pops recently did an all-Coleman evening at Carnegie Hall, and a musical revue of his works invitingly titled "Hey, Look Me Over!" is coming together at the Primary Stages space on West 45th. With all this activity, maybe The Cy Coleman Trio will make another run for it. If they do, I hope you don't have to be told to pounce--pronto!

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KT is OK

With her Floradora form divine, KT Sullivan is terrific at the Algonquin's Oak Room, sprinting through a musical hour of Scandals and Follies (the Broadway variety, i.e., revues from the first half of the previous century). She and her accompanist, the wonderful Larry Woodard, lead off with a 28-song medley of that era's ditties. The girlishly scholarly Sullivan dispenses anecdotes between numbers--the act was inspired by Lee Davis's excellent tome of the same name--and works a feather boa like a vision from another vintage. Think Sophie Tucker crossed with Judy Holliday, then add dashes of Fanny Brice and Nora Bayes for flavor. Stephen Holden, in his New York Times review, called her "a champagne bubble." I think that covers it.

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SOMEWHERE, A PLACE FOR ARCI'S

Last week's sudden shuttering of Arci's Place didn't leave two of the club's stars high and dry. Donna McKechnie is booked to Phoenix and beyond for the next two months and Jana Robbins likewise landed on her feet, scheduling her Cy Coleman show (One Hell of a Ride) for one performance at Danny's on March 31 with a possibility of extending into April. Arci's kingpin John Miller expects to be back in business by the summer in some midtown West Side locale. It ain't gonna be the FireBird, which has joyfully resurfaced as a jazz room with the Robert Locke trio; the scuttlebutt is that Miller has his sights and heart set on the Paramount Hotel. You can't keep cabaret down in this "dirty town."


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